Making space for uncertainty.

Recap video!

 

Can artists and citizens collaborate to help a city find its voice?

The five second overview

Who: Akira Morita and Dipika Kohli led a team that includes 20 collaborators: photographers, local venue owners, sponsors, in-kind sponsors, fabric artists, word artists, graphic artists, and more. Like more than 1,000 participants who joined us at roundtables last year, the set was diverse and self-selecting.

What: STITCH was conceived to help Durham residents discover what kind of future they wanted for their beloved Bull City to grow into. As branding consultants over at Design Kompany, Dipika and Akira got to see just how important authenticity is for a person or group to express. Some campaigns around town seemed like they were just labels getting applied, as though they were simply souped-up marketing campaigns. People see through that. Durham can do better. So many people who live here love this place, and what really hit home was someone from the West Coast said, “This is a town that really likes itself. That’s rare.” What could we do if we asked the people who live here what ONE word they’d like to see Durham BECOME?

We asked at random places, like cafes around town, or restaurants, walking about on the street, visiting the Farmer’s Market, or going to other public events at libraries. Even a City Council meeting. Like most people who are asked to find words to describe who they really are and want to be, there was puzzlement—at first.

Once we got 276 words, we began the process of asking people to “vote,” either at a series of weekly events at art galleries throughout March, or online. The more votes a word got, the bigger it appears in this word tag cloud:

Final-250words

Two dozen local artists produced an array of proposals, sketches, prototypes and finished work using these 276 words as a starting point.

 

Why it matters

Without a grassroots effort to ask the people to engage in dialogue, such things as “a city brand for Durham” get decided by top-down efforts. We wanted to include the voice that mattered—the people who lived there, and had opinions. It’s just that they’ve never been asked. The “Give us a word!” project, nicknamed with love the “One Word Manifesto” by friends who’re now involved, exists to call out what’s in people’s heads and help us all see what each other might envision for this place we share, where we live.

The words nominated and selected became the seeds of creativity, through which the community and area artists could collaborate to visualize the future we imagine, together.

Where: Durham, North Carolina! Specifically, downtown.

How words can change us

Words are powerful.

There are lots of examples of words, phrases and symbols that changed communities, people and how they acted toward one another. New York City’s “I [heart] NY” campaign created a momentum that changed the city over the following decades, MLK, JFK, Gandhi and Lincoln’s words became pre-internet memes that made history. If we can start putting our words “out there” I think it’s possible to affect change in our own community.

To this end, we collected people’s one-word answers to the question:

What ONE WORD would you like for Durham to become and be remembered as?

We will tally these answers in a long list, and everyone will select their favorites.

Where we canvassed for the words:


View STITCH surveys in a larger map

Here are the list of words, by popularity:

  • creative
  • vibrant
  • quirky
  • authentic
  • collaborative
  • walkable
  • safe
  • inclusive
  • community
  • bicyclicious
  • durhable
  • eclectic
  • colorful
  • diverse
  • idiosyncratic
  • progressive
  • tolerant
  • yeasty
  • complicated
  • dirty
  • doggy
  • evolving
  • home
  • passion
  • resilient
  • visionary
  • diversity
  • alive
  • love
  • tasty
  • verdant
  • weird
  • workingclass
  • bulltastic
  • foodies
  • fun
  • mixed
  • queer
  • seaworthy
  • trees
  • undone
  • breweries
  • disreputable
  • DIY
  • funky
  • local
  • messy
  • mindfulness
  • real
  • thriving
  • accepting
  • art
  • beautiful
  • bootstrappy
  • compassionate
  • cultural
  • dynamic
  • environmentallyfriendly
  • happy
  • harmonious
  • history
  • illuminated
  • incubator
  • openminded
  • sustainable
  • tower
  • accessible
  • awesome
  • beacon
  • beaver
  • bigsmall
  • blessed
  • bonafide
  • cooperative
  • crunchy
  • dandy
  • decadent
  • dilapidated
  • equal
  • everybody
  • food
  • friendly
  • greenest
  • homegrown
  • integrated
  • interconnected
  • intergenerational
  • involved
  • jazzy
  • llamas
  • localicious
  • loving
  • open
  • peaceful
  • sexy
  • soul
  • vivacious
  • active
  • amazeballs
  • aspirational
  • bigger
  • brick
  • carless
  • celebrated
  • cohesive
  • collaboration
  • colorblind
  • conscious
  • conviviality
  • darksky
  • durham
  • dynasty
  • energetic
  • enthusiastic
  • exciting
  • family
  • further
  • gritty
  • hopeful
  • innovative
  • inspirational
  • interesting
  • liberal
  • loved
  • notcommercialized
  • proud
  • rebirth
  • selfsustaining
  • shiny
  • smart
  • transformative
  • unique
  • yummy
  • bikable
  • brickhenge
  • ceasefire
  • content
  • culture
  • dance
  • denser
  • distinct
  • entrepreneurial
  • fabulous
  • free
  • geeky
  • generous
  • great
  • greener
  • greenspace
  • hip
  • iconoclastic
  • intoxicating
  • jazz
  • just
  • localcityworldcity
  • music
  • nomorechurch
  • preservation
  • realistic
  • redeem
  • rich
  • robical
  • shared
  • together
  • togetherness
  • unified
  • ambitious
  • amusing
  • attention
  • attractive
  • balanced
  • best
  • blues
  • chromatic
  • closer
  • connect
  • conscience
  • cool
  • coop
  • cosmopolitan
  • creativethinktank
  • degentrify
  • deliberate
  • delicious
  • different
  • drumcircles
  • edgy
  • embrace
  • energized
  • engaged
  • exhibitions
  • fair
  • fly
  • gay
  • genuine
  • gunless
  • happiness
  • hilarity
  • horsehocky
  • imagination
  • inspired
  • integration
  • intermixed
  • legacy
  • mystery
  • oneiromancy
  • opportunity
  • perfect
  • physcomitrella
  • positive
  • recreation
  • renaissance
  • renew
  • respect
  • satisfied
  • see
  • sublime
  • true
  • trust
  • united
  • vibrance
  • vulgar
  • warm
  • wassup
  • wrench
  • yogic
  • character
  • clean
  • close
  • coalfree
  • comfortable
  • country
  • debonair
  • dense
  • derm
  • diggin’
  • downtoearth
  • durm
  • easy
  • evolution
  • famous
  • fresh
  • friendship
  • full
  • garden
  • gorm
  • grit
  • help
  • highimpact
  • intentional
  • lucid
  • mosaic
  • moving
  • multiplicity
  • outstanding
  • pickle
  • playful
  • powerful
  • refreshing
  • reincarneation
  • rejuvenation
  • relax
  • restaurants
  • salad
  • same
  • saved
  • service
  • stable
  • success
  • successful
  • swimfriendly
  • transparent
  • typez
  • vegan
  • waterresponsible
  • yes
  • southern